Wednesday, December 7, 2022

In embarrassing switcheroo the channel launch of BBC UKTV switches from eMedia's Openview to MultiChoice's DStv.

by Thinus Ferreira

After eMedia and BBC Studios Africa announced in late September that it would be adding the BBC UKTV channel to the Openview satellite service - which then failed to happen - MultiChoice and BBC Studios Africa are now adding the BBC UKTV channel to the DStv satellite service from 15 December in a bizarre channel carriage switcheroo.

To prevent complaints about repeats from DStv subscribers on more expensive and higher-tiered packages like DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus and DStv Compact, MultiChoice is only making BBC UKTV available to the lower-tiered packages.

Subscribers of DStv Family, DStv Access and DStv Easy View will now see UKTV from 15 December on DStv channel 134. UKTV will be carrying rerun content that already featured on existing DStv channels like BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle in the past.

While the BBC content windowing on BBC UKTV will be new for the lower-tiered DStv viewers, it would be repeat viewing for other DStv subscribers who already saw it when it was first-run shows and who are not missing out on content.

BBC UKTV will be the 6th BBC channel carried on DStv after BBC Brit, BBC Earth, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies and BBC World News, and will offer lower-tiered DStv subscribers access to natural history series, British soaps and children's programming they haven't seen before. 

"We have strengthened our partnerships, which has in turn strengthened our content offering, therefore, we are extremely excited to introduce BBC UKTV to our viewers," says Georginah Machiridza, MultiChoice's head of general entertainment channels.

"As Africa's most loved storyteller we are always looking to offer top entertainment to our DStv customers and the launch of this channel aims to do just that."

The addition of BBC UKTV to MultiChoice's DStv and its failure to materialise on eMedia's Openview is an embarrassing situation for eMedia, which didn't want to tell the media beforehand that the channel would no longer make its debut in October and was abruptly scuppered together with a media launch event that was planned for Johannesburg media.

BBC Studios Africa was asked in a media query why the BBC UKTV channel has now suddenly switched from the announced Openview platform of eMedia to MultiChoice's DStv platform but through its Atmosphere PR agency the broadcaster didn't want to answer the specific question.

BBC Studios Africa was also asked if the BBC's plan was to have BBC UKTV on both eMedia and DStv and if that is still the plan, or if UKTV will no longer be coming to Openview. Atmosphere also didn't give an answer to this question, with the BBC just saying that it can't provide any more information" about the issue.

In a general response Atmosphere says that "BBC UKTV has been specially created for a wide audience to enjoy the BBC's award-winning catalogue".

"DStv Easy View enables new audiences to watch the rich catalogue of inspiring content, across multiple genres on one destination. We are disappointed that BBC UKTV did not launch on Openview as planned. We are not in a position provide any more information at this time in relation to Openview specifically but are keen going forward that BBC UKTV reaches as many viewers as possible."

Sunday, December 4, 2022

SABC+ adds SABC Festive as December 2022 pop-up channel with music specials and comedy.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster's new video streaming service SABC+ has added SABC Festive as a temporary pop-up channel for the 2022 holiday season that will primarily focus on comedy and music content.

SABC Festive will run until 8 January 2023 and is just available as a digital streaming channel on SABC+, focusing on modern South African pop culture content, celebrating the festive lifestyle.

The SABC is taking a page from the playbook of eMedia and MultiChoice which have both done pop-up TV channels on their respective Openview and DStv satellite TV services.

When the broadcaster launched SABC+ in mid-November, Merlin Naicker, head of SABC video entertainment, said that the SABC has plans to quickly launch pop-up channels like a festive channel, as well as Senzo Meyiwa murder trial court channel as part of its strategy to grow its new streamer's user base.

With SABC+ which is a rebrand of Telkom's shuttered TelkomONE streaming service, the SABC inherited just over 150 000 subscribers, and has been averaging 15 000 new sign-ups per day over the past two weeks.

The SABC has a target of reaching between one and two million users for SABC+ a year from now by November 2023.  

SABC Festive has a mix of content from the SABC's library archive like episodes of SABC1's Live AMP, mixed with American shows like The Pop Profiles series looking at the careers of American entertainers like Lady Gaga, Pink, Snoop Dog, Eminem and Britney Spears.

Episodes of the SABC series Gospel Classics and Afro Cafe are also on the SABC Festive schedule, along with music specials, including Biggest Weekend with Sam Smith, the Katy Perry World Tour, Billie Eilish at the Glastonbury Festival, Jorja Smith with her live performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2019, 2014's Ed Sheeran: Live at iTunes Festival, and 2019's Janelle Monae's Glastonbury Festival performance.

Some of Paramount Africa's pay-TV content from Comedy Central will also be on SABC Festive like the Comedy Central Roast of Somizi, The Comedy Central Roast of AKA and the Roast Battle 2018.

"The strategy behind creating the SABC Festive pop-up channel is that it allows the SABC to offer 24-hour content focused on music and comedy. Audiences can tune in from any device at different destinations, allowing the SABC to be everywhere for everyone," says Merlin Naicker.

Friday, December 2, 2022

SABC hopes to earn R37.5 million from SABC+ in its first year, adds 15 000 new users per day.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's public broadcaster hopes to earn R37.5 million from its just-launched video streaming service SABC+ during its first financial year in operation, with the streamer adding around 15 000 new users per day.

SABC+ launched on 17 November after it took over the TelkomONE streaming service and rebranded it and which Telkom decided to offload to the public broadcaster, inheriting just over 150 000 existing users.

The SABC wants to scale up the number of users to between 1 and 2 million by November 2023 but will have to work hard as a late market entrant to compete against the likes of Netflix SA, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+ and MultiChoice's video streamer Showmax.

Ian Plaatjes, SABC COO, told parliament this week that SABC+ is growing "an average of 15 000 new subscribers per day".

The SABC hopes to earn R6 million from SABC+ during the third quarter of its 2022/2023 financial year, rising to R31.5 million during the fourth quarter of the financial year, for a total of R37.5 million. 

The SABC is losing millions in ad revenue monthly because of Eskom's electricity blackouts with as much as 20% of the audience of a TV commercial wiped away through loadshedding.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's public broadcaster is losing millions of rand per month in ad revenue because of Eskom's electricity blackouts which leads to advertisers not getting the traction from their interrupted marketing and advertising campaigns and as much as a fifth of the entire audience for a TV commercial getting wiped away.

Reggie Nxumalo, SABC head of sales, told parliament this week that linear TV broadcast is built on appointment viewing. "Prime time is when the audience viewership is at its peak between 18:00 and 22:00. Therefore loadshedding adversely impacts the appointment viewing through the reduction in viewership".

"The other challenge from a client perspective is that most advertising campaigns have a specific timeframe. For example, you could have a campaign that runs from a retail perspective from Tursday to Saturday, over a 4-week period."

"What loadshedding does is it erodes that value from a linear TV perspective - upwards of 20%. This year as blackout levels increased, the impact increased as there is a positive correlation [between blackouts and audience loss]."  

"Advertising clients' campaigns fail to reach the ARs or audience ratings by as much as 15% to 20%

MultiChoice and SABC deadlocked in must-carry conflict on price to pay for public broadcaster's TV channels which must be shown on DStv.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster and MultiChoice are deadlocked in their must-carry conflict over what price to pay for the SABC's TV channels and which are compulsory to be shown on DStv, with the SABC and the pay-TV operator now going to the country's broadcasting regulator for an arbitration process to establish a price.

While the carriage agreement for SABC News, the broadcaster's 24-hour TV news channel is a separate contract for which MultiChoice is paying the SABC, the SABC wants payment for the must-carry carriage of its terrestrial TV channels SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) in a review earlier this year of the so-called "must-carry" regulations, said that while must-carry will remain, pay-TV operators like MultiChoice and StarTimes's StarSat must pay for these channels as well.

Icasa noted that the public broadcaster and pay-TV operators must meet and hash out an agreement for what these SABC TV channels are worth and then sign a new channels carriage agreement "subject to commercially negotiable terms".

In April this year, the SABC said that it was looking "forward to negotiating in good faith with MultiChoice and other subscription broadcasters which have thus far been carrying the SABC's channels and some of South Africa's most-watched programmes at no cost".

Months later those negotiations have now stalled and deadlocked.

"We have been in negotiations with MultiChoice for the last couple of months now. We've unfortunately deadlocked on that," Ian Plaatjes, SABC COO told parliament this week. "We will now be going through an Icasa arbitration process."

SABC+: The 7 minuses the SABC's late market entrant video streamer will have to overcome.

by Thinus Ferreira 

South Africa's SABC now has a video streaming service. As the country's 85-year-old broadcaster faces the future as a new streamer with SABC+, in order to capture a part of the pie as a player, it will have to confront these crucial issues from its past.  

1. Late market entrance
SABC+ is what we call a late market entrant to South Africa's video streaming sector and will have to work even harder and do even more to stand out. 

There's fashionably late. Then there's late-late to the wedding because the car got a flat tire. 

As the "laatlammetjie", SABC+ is the latest youngest child in an already large family and growing, comprising Netflix, MultiChoice's Showmax, eMedia's eVOD, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Appel TV+, VIU, BritBox SA, VIU, TruthTV, WOW Presents Plus and MarqueeTV.

If you're watching one of them, you're not watching any of the other at the same time - and the minutes in a week available to spend in the attention economy remain the same finite 10 080.

None of them are going to leave a single slice of the bread on the table if they can help it, in the fierce competition for users and subscribers. SABC+ will have to get in there and grab what it can get.
Late out of the running blocks is never a good thing.

In this case, the SABC is taking over Telkom's TelkomONE streamer which nets it just over 150 000 registered users.

The SABC wants to grow that to between 1 and 2 million registered users by November 2023. 

In America, most households making use of streamers are now making use of between three and four already. As a Johnny-come-lately, SABC+ will have to jostle for position to make a case to the average South African TV watcher and consumer as to why SABC+ matters and should be one of their two, or three or four video streaming services to use. 

The benefit from being late to the party, is that SABC+ can learn from forerunners' mistakes to try and not repeat those - and to be careful not to make its own.

The launch came out of left field with no big launch marketing push. A mistake.
Like the little rabbit in Zootopia going through the new police recruit physical test, there's nothing wrong with being small or smaller or trying to catch up from behind - you just have to figure out how to use that to your advantage to literally scale up to get you over the hurdles. 

2. A lack of compelling content
An in-built handicap is the metastasised perception (halfway between fact and consumer attitude) that the SABC doesn't have any compelling content - nothing really besides its ritualistic prime-time soaps of Uzalo, Generations, Skeem Saam, Muvhango and 7de Laan that's really worth watching or getting audiences. 

Top Billing? Sorry, no. A massive, slick and high-end produced weekly drama series? Nope. Incredible sports coverage? Nada.
The SABC's linear TV ratings for SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 are steadily declining month by month for close to three years now. That same content is now on SABC+ will little add-on. 

The SABC's linear TV ratings ride on predominantly old and very mature shows, still popular but waning, without the introduction of any new, hugely successful hits. 

Uzalo a few years back was the last one for SABC1. SABC2 doesn't have anything else new to replace Muvhango or 7de Laan. After axing Isidingo, Top Billing, High Rollers and several other shows, SABC3's The Estate has been a ratings flop. 

If the SABC rejuvenates its traditional TV linear offering with new "big umbrella" general entertainment, locally-produced shows, it will automatically lead to SABC+ becoming appointment television and a streaming destination in its own right - but that will require a real commitment to real financial investment in quality content by the broadcaster. 

3. Bespoke content
The SABC hasn't given any thought and planning - or didn't have enough time - to create unique, new and compelling local content just for SABC+, something that's crucial to differentiate it from other streamers and to make it stand out as a must-go-to SABC platform. 

Before eMedia Investments' launched its eVOD streamer as an AVOD service, Marlon Davids, managing director of channels, and Helga Palmer, head of local productions, commissioned a string of locally-produced, made-for-TV movies as well as TV series as eOriginal productions to exclusively debut on eVOD at its launch. 

With some content like Isiphindiselo hugely successful there, leveraged those by giving them a linear broadcast run in a later free-to-air window: Win-win for eVOD, win-win for as the same show and content spend helps lift the tide in both oceans, drawing registered users to the streamer, and bringing in viewers and advertising on linear. set aside a specific multi-million rand budget just for exclusive on-demand content for eVOD. 

Merlin Naicker, head of SABC video entertainment, and Lala Tuku, SABC head of local productions, have been doing countrywide roadshows the past few months to meet and court South African producers and to say sorry for mistreatment in the past - asking them to please come and work with and for the SABC again. 

Burnt by years of unprofessional treatment through a terrible and mismanaged content pitching and commissioning process rife with corruption, as well as shocking and abrupt "But we have an existing contract and multiple episodes left" show cancellations, production companies left the SABC and absconded.

They went to the likes of MultiChoice, M-Net, Mzansi Magic and Moja Love, and have largely pinned their hopes the past few years on trying to snag one of the lucrative dangling fruits offered by new streamers like Netflix and Showmax where content commissioning procedures are less byzantine than at the SABC.

Two weeks ago Merlin Naicker and Lala Tuku told producers the broadcaster is "streamlining" and improving the nightmare of trying to pitch concepts to the SABC and content commissioning with the lofty promise of getting back to producers "within 21 days". 

That's not going to happen but at least the SABC is making the right, better noises. 

Now it needs to put money (where who knows That will come from) where its mouth is, and commission some really compelling content that could reside on SABC+, exclusively first, as on-demand content that could transition to linear later.

SABC execs are taking a page from MultiChoice's book for DStv pop-up channels and did say it plans to do specific pop-up TV and radio channels for SABC+ like a Senzo Meyiwa murder trial channel, a holiday channel, and others, in future. This is a great idea and unique content that will draw new viewers and new users to SABC+ if the broadcaster is able to follow through on this idea. 

4. Marketing & PR
Very few of South Africa's media contingent covering the industry even knew that there was to be a SABC launch event for SABC+ on a Thursday two weeks ago. 

The broadcaster didn't bother to tell or invite the bulk of the press who would usually cover a media announcement and launch like this to its hastily arranged morning event. There were no so-called "influencers" to hype and enhance the announcement. As a result, SABC+ didn't, as the kids say, "trend" on Thursday. 

The problem is that the broadcaster really had one chance to go big with a streamer launch. While not a commercial company, SABC+ - and especially since it's a late market entrant - really needed to make a (bigger) splash last week, coming at the end of a year. It didn't.

Compared to the media launches of streamers like Showmax and Disney+ and ones gone and forgotten like Cell C Black, SABC+ didn't create any big buzzworthy moment.

It will not serve the SABC to have launched SABC+ and then not aggressively market it or put a real, and big money number behind a ringfenced SABC+ marketing budget to drive public awareness of it.

The SABC already lost out on a lot of what is called "earned media" - news reports and coverage - for not having bothered to work to get media into Thursday's room where SABC and Hisense execs were congregating (with some of whom themselves were flown in for the event).

Does SABC+ have its own publicist or publicity team? TelkomONE definitely had. Did the SABC allocate a specific marketing team to look after and promote SABC+ specifically from now on?
It's crucial that the SABC actively promote SABC+ and put marketing money and expert PR people behind it to drive marketing and publicity about it constantly.

5. Speed is of the essence
Two weeks ago Merlin Naicker said the 85-year-old SABC has an "ambitious task" to become "more faster, more agile".

If digital in media is the future, so is speed. The SABC needs to make and executive decisions - especially around content and operational directives - much, much quicker. 

This goes for the brick-and-mortar Auckland Park headquarters, but even more so for SABC+ as a digital era, up-in-the-clouds creation. 

SABC+ doesn't stand any chance of success against the likes of global streaming behemoths like Netflix and Disney+ if it remains unable to pick up the pace and start running faster. 

Creating content deals - signing up producers, production companies, talent both on-screen and behind the camera, and crafting multi-year, multi-project output deals with producers - are absolutely crucial. 

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are already swarming the African content and sucking up studios, production houses and sewing up output deals, while Amazon Studios Africa is poised to go big with a content commission spree in South Africa, and Showmax is establishing more and more commercial relationships with up-and-coming producers.'

In the new "streaming Wild West" that's Africa and South Africa's heated video streamer market, especially Netflix, Amazon Studios and Disney+ are headhunting veraciously, stealing talented and experienced video content execs from especially MultiChoice and Showmax.

 For SABC+ to shine, it unquestionably will need experienced, skilled, versatile and very talented executives to drive an informed and focused content approach and strategy. 

The SABC will have to spend money to attract, appoint and keep some of these available people as well. There is no way that SABC+ can just function as a nice-to-have "add-on" without any dedicated content and strategy executives specifically for it, to steer its future. "Run, Forrest, run!"

6. A reason why
Why should you download SABC+ on your mobile phone? Why should you open the app on your Hisense TV set? 

The SABC will have to figure out and explain to South Africa's existing and potential TV households and video streaming consumers why it matters, why having and using SABC+ is a benefit and why it will improve and better their lives. 

Has the SABC made this case? Not yet. 

The BBC has found success with its BBC iPlayer streamer because it gave UK audiences "a reason why". With iPlayer the BBC proved to viewers why they want to pay their TV Licence fee, why they want the BBC to continue to exist; why it's worth it to pay for the BBC to operate as that country's public broadcaster.

7. SABC TV Licence fees
This brings us to another - and finally, more contentious issue: The SABC TV Licence fee. 

If the broadcaster is smart - and with talk growing louder of the SABC TV Licence fee in South Africa being phased out sooner rather than later as only 18% of TV households that the SABC is aware of still bothering to pay - the broadcaster will have to figure out a way to make SABC+ work to make people want to pay their SABC TV Licence fee.

Is it possible to create some functionality where a SABC+ user who verifies or inputs a unique, valid SABC TV Licence number or profile gets access to more content? 

Is it possible to reward SABC+ users who use the streamer with a verified TV Licence number or profile with something additional? If smartly enacted, SABC+ could drive SABC TV Licence compliance or uptake, making it desirable instead of a nuisance to pay one.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

'A very dim picture': Struggling SABC projects another massive R608 million loss in 2023.

by Thinus Ferreira

After initially projecting a modest profit in 2023, South Africa's public broadcaster has suddenly switched to "a very dim picture" and is now forecasting yet another massive loss of R608 million, as the government warns that 2023 is the final year the SABC will get bailout money.

The SABC which is sitting with no appointed board, is swinging to yet another projected massive loss of R608 million for its 2022/2023 year, with the country's government that cabinet is working on new legislation to make up for the struggling broadcaster's funding gap.

Yolande van Biljon, SABC chief financial officer, told parliament this week that the public broadcaster's initial projection of a profit of R64 million by the end of March 2023 as part of its "bullish" corporate plan it drew up in February this year, is turning into a projected massive loss of R608 million.

According to the SABC's latest shared forecast, the projected R608 million loss will be three times bigger than the net loss of R201 million the SABC racked up for its 2021/2022 financial year.

Yolande van Biljon says the huge loss the SABC is now expected to rack up by the time its current financial year ends by 31 March 2023 is "the consistent underperformance in our advertising revenue as well as SABC TV Licence revenue which has consistently not lived up to the expectation".

"In the TV Licence case, it's largely attributed to the situation in the greater economy, and with classic advertising and sponsorships and issues around that."  The SABC has 238 critical job positions which are vacant.

"Yes, our forecast does predict a very dim picture," Yolande van Biljon said.

Philly Mapulane, deputy minister of South Africa's department of communications and digital technologies, told parliament's portfolio committee on communications and digital technology this week that 2023 will be the last year that the SABC is getting any bailout money and that the government is working on a new bill to fund the financial gap in the SABC's public broadcasting mandate.

"We are in the final stages of finalising the SABC bill that will be coming before the committee, hopefully to be tabled as soon as cabinet has finalised it."

He said that the SABC "has a public mandate but also commercial activities. And the public mandate in our view is not sufficiently and adequately funded. The bill will seek to ensure that the public mandate is sufficiently funded from the fiscus and to separate it from its commercial activities so that the SABC can sustain itself."

"Next year is going to important for the entity because it's going to be the last year that the SABC will be receiving a bailout. So it's the last year of funding from the fiscus for the bailout. So it's an important year for the SABC in terms of its turnaround plan," Philly Mapulane said.

SABC cancelled Special Assignment over ratings.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster is finally confirming that it cancelled the long-running current affairs and investigative magazine programme Special Assignment on SABC3 in August over bad TV ratings because the show only managed to pull 103 000 viewers.

The public broadcaster has a public mandate to do news and current affairs TV programming, in all languages and regardless of viewership, with Special Assignment which was the SABC's sole current affairs magazine show in English and which got canned after 24 years without any replacement.

Co-incidentally, Special Assignment is the show that SABC top executives used as a scapegoat a few months before its broadcast axing, to oust the SABC's former head of news, Phathiswa Magopeni, who is now set to return to the SABC as one of the new board members.

After an episode of Special Assignment was broadcast while the story under investigation about South Africa's towtruck-industry was still under a court interdict, SABC execs blamed Phathiswa Magopeni and alleged during a disciplinary hearing that it was her fault and mistake that the episode was shown.

Special Assignment producers and staff defended Phathiswa Magopeni and blamed the SABC's archaic and byzantine content labelling system for the mistake.

Merlin Naicker, head of SABC video entertainment, told parliament this week that Special Assignment got canned because of lousy ratings. The SABC decided to dump the show before developing a replacement and four months after its abrupt removal there's been no new replacement. 

The SABC says it is working on coming up with a new show which will compete with M-Net's (DStv 101) Carte Blanche on a Sunday evening and's Checkpoint with Nkepile Mabuse and Devi fronted by Devi Sankaree Govender.

"Special Assignment achieved a 0.94 percentage share, or 103 000 viewers which is below the target that we've set ourselves as a channel," Merlin Naicker said.

"We will reduce content that is not delivering according to the standard or according to the target set and this is one of those that was not achieving. The show itself does not mean that it's a poor show. It means that it's not achieving the targets that we required."

"We are working with our news team to figure out a better current affairs show that can better service the market," he said.